The worst piece of gear I ever bought. Airsynth.

What is the worst piece of studio gear you ever bought? Something you thought, “I can put this to great use!”. However, in reality it never helped you create a single song. For me this is an easy choice: The Alesis Airsynth.Alesis Airsynth

Many times when songwriting after I finish the arrangement I will use an analog synth to add a wash or layer of sound behind the entire song. I thought a Theremin could also be useful in a similar way to me. There was a cool looking new orange gadget showing up in the pro-audio catalogs I received in the mail called the Airsynth. It was supposed to be similar to a Theremin or Roland D-beam controller with a mini synthesizer inside producing 50 sounds. You hold and wave your hand over the unit and the sound changes. After reading this review in Sound on Sound Magazine I bought the dam thing for about $250.

I was disappointed immediately. As soon as I hooked it up I got that sad weird feeling I was taken advantage of. You know the feeling where you feel sorry for yourself. You have been scammed by marketing and advertising. First off, the Airsynth felt so light as if there was nothing inside it’s plastic box. Of course if the unit sounded great or something that wouldn’t matter but the Airsynth sounded lame. Lame sounds with very little control. As much as I waved my freakin hands all over the place the Airsynth did not react in anyway fun or musical. It was so lame I hid it in my studio when people came over. I was afraid they would want to try it out and then if they did they would call me a sucker for buying it!

With the wonderful magic known as eBay I reduced my chances of getting into heaven by putting the dam thing up for auction. Some poor soul bought it and I was free of my burden. Why the Airsynth scarred me so bad only a therapist can say.

Moog Etherwave Theremin

I never replaced the Airsynth but lately I have been eyeing the Moog Etherwave Theremin. Another option would be the Eowave Persephone or maybe adding a Doepfer RM2 ribbon controller to my set up will do the trick. I made a post about the latter two already: click here. My guess is when the new Portishead album “Third” comes out in April I will be inspired to go shopping!

9 Comments

  1. “With the wonderful magic known as eBay I reduced my chances of getting into heaven by putting the dam thing up for auction.” Omg! Haha. That had me laughing harder than I have laughed in months. Mate, I so know what you are talking about… I’ve stopped counting my guilt-ridden ebay sells. See you in hell.

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  2. I know the feeling; I own both an airsynth and a theremin. While I have never used the theremin in recording, it is still a fun toy and I’m constantly hooking it up whenever someone spies it in my studio.

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  3. Hm, funny – I owned an AirFX and absolutely loved it, found that I tended to write more songs with the thing because it was so much fun.

    However it still ended up as one of the worst pieces of gear I bought because not one but two of them just fizzled out – they seemed to have roughly the same shelf-life as a watermelon…

    The other worst piece of gear I’ve bought is my Hammond L100 – hundreds of €€ sunk into it and it still trips the mains electricity breaker every time I switch it on :(

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  4. Hi Rozling! That IS funny… I can’t believe you liked the Airsynth! But hey that goes to show you life is mostly subjective. Sorry about your Hammond… I’m sure it sounds amazing while it runs.

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  5. I bought the other box, the blue one when it came out, hopefully, i was convincing enough at the music shop when i gave it back after the week end, explaining what a piece of useless crap it was. I got my money back.

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    1. or a useless piece of crap… ^^

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  6. I would just like to add my own opinion about the Alesis Airsynth and AirFX. I have both of them and put them to great use in 2 different live bands and currently in my studio setup I am transforming them into something much better than what they can do just by themselves and in original condition. When I hooked them up together, running the Airsynth through a behringer virtualizer pro multi-fx unit, and mixed the microphone through that and also into the AirFX and back out into a digitech vocal 300 foot-pedal, I must say that achieved a level of effect-expression that is hard to achieve in other ways. For along time I was getting sick of programming things and wanted to make a more real-time expressive crazy fx rig… perhaps all these pieces of equipment aren’t much by themselves, but you would be surprised at how well they can be utilized for some very unique, texturized and expressive atmospherics and even some melodic elements as well…. I am more excited about getting the Photon which has the xyz dome as a midi controller, that way I can choose exactly what parameters I want to control with it. Anyway, with an airsynth, airfx, and the vocal 300 foot pedal I can basically be controlling and morphing 9 different parameters simultaneously. I would like to see someone try to turn 9 rotary knobs at the same time or 9 sliders, and all in different purposely directed motions. This complex use of these apparent “toys” actually worked wonderfully when I played in a psychedelic improv band along with a keyboard of course, and then when I was in a post-hardcore scream-o-ish band I was playing keyboards and singing, and we had some very interesting intros and bridges where I would use the airsynth and airfx very musically, and could memorize using them the same way in the songs – all live – and the cool part is it has wonderful potential for expression within a memorized set of parts. If you want proof and someone comments back I will put my e-mail address up here and then get ahold of me I will send you some mp3s. Currently however for those airsynth haters on here you will probably appreciate that I removed both the airsynth and airfx from their cheesy plastic cases along with the vocal 300 and they are set up so that I can still play them normal but I am also working on circuit-bending them for achieving a whole new level of unique sound from these wacky one-of-a-kind devices, so honestly controlling 3 parameters simultaneously with one hand is not easy to do without using either an infrared-type unit like these or something like the Wacom pen tablet to midi, which offers perhaps a little more control over the specific directions of the 3-axis parameters (x, y, and pressure). By itself, yeah the air-synth isn’t going to sound very useful in the studio, but put it into a jam-band setup with some other crazy shit and you’ll see that it has some uses when combined with other units… and if someone has both an air-synth hooked into an air-fx, you can really achieve some unique sounds and very expressively. Peace!

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    1. Thanks for your use case. I never hooked my AIrsynth through anything so indeed you may have morphed it into something better. I remember in my 90s studio taking 5+ hardware devices and putting them through each other trying to get a different sound.

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  7. I have always found the Airsynth to be quite a lot of fun and used it for both recording with my band and on tracks for the daily music bean project on my blog. I believe that Wayne Coyne uses one fitted inside an acoustic guitar with the controller poking through the soundhole.

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